The first time I had falafel was in college, where there was a strong Jewish population. At first, I was not crazy about this dish. It felt pasty and mealy. But throughout the years, I learn to appreciate it and discovered the two elements that separated the good falafel from the great falafel! The first element is the omission of flour or corn starch. Many falafel recipes contain flours or starches in order to make the chickpea mixture come together more easily. But that addition usually can make the falafel have a drier taste and a more dense texture. By omitting flour or cornstarch, you will have a more moist falafel while retaining the crispness on the outside. The second element is the addition of herbs. Herbs not only add a great flavor but also impart a certain freshness. Falafel is often served with hummus or inside a pita bread with tomatoes and cucumbers. I particularly like serving the falafel with tahini sauce, for which I have provided a recipe below.
About 30-35 falafel, serves six
12 ounces of dried chickpeas
1 ½ cup parsley leaves
1 ½ cup cilantro leaves
½ onion, roughly chopped
6 scallions, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon salt, plus more for seasoning
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted and ground
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup of tahini sauce (see recipe below)
Rinse chickpeas and place in a large bowl. Cover the chickpeas with cold water. Ensure there is about two inches of water over the chickpeas. This will allow them to increase in volume. Let the chickpeas stand at room temperature overnight. The next day, drain the chickpeas and, using a salad spinner, dry them.
In the bowl of a food processor, place the chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, onion, scallions, garlic, salt, cumin, coriander, and cayenne pepper and process until the chickpeas are finely minced. If necessary, stop the processor to scrape down the sides. Gather a bit of the mixture and form a ball. The mixture should hold together. If it doesn’t, process a bit longer.
Pour about one inch of oil into a deep skillet or wok and place over a medium high heat. Once the oil reaches a temperature about 375°F, carefully lower the falafel into the oil, without overcrowding the pan and working in batches. Allow to cook for about two minutes before turning them over and cooking for another two minutes. Transfer the chickpeas onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels and season with salt.
When all the falafel is cooked, serve immediately with the tahini sauce. Alternatively serve with hummus or inside pita bread along with tahini sauce, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Tahini Sauce (makes about 2 cups)
2/3 cup lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 cup tahini paste
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
In a bowl, whisk the lemon juice and garlic together. Add the tahini paste and whisk to blend well. Combine the water and the olive oil together and gradually add to the tahini, whisking to incorporate. When you have a smooth sauce, add the cumin, cayenne and salt. If necessary, adjust the seasonings to taste. Place in a bowl and refrigerate while you prepare the falafel.